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Biological Chemistry

Antibody reduces fat, increases metabolism in mice

Blocking follicle stimulating hormone could provide route for treating obesity, osteoporosis

by Elizabeth K. Wilson
May 29, 2017 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 95, Issue 22

Menopause is associated with health problems for women, such as weight gain and loss of bone density. During menopause, levels of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) also rise dramatically.

An antibody targeting FSH that was previously shown to increase bone mass in mice also reduces body fat and increases metabolism in mice, according to a new study (Nature 2017, DOI: 10.1038/nature22342).

The discovery, by two international teams, that blocking FSH in mice directly counteracts many of the symptoms that arise during menopause holds promise for treatments of myriad conditions, such as obesity, osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.

FSH is produced by the pituitary gland in both male and female mammals, and, in addition to stimulating the growth of ovarian follicles in females, regulates numerous other reproductive processes.

The teams, supervised by Mone Zaidi and Li Sun at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and Clifford J. Rosen at Maine Medical Center Research Institute, used a synthetic mouse antibody that targets a 13-amino-acid sequence of one subunit of FSH.

They tested the antibody on populations of female mice that had their ovaries removed—and thus had high FSH levels—and on both male and female mice that were fed high-fat diets. In both cases, treatment with the antibody resulted in fat loss and increased metabolism.

Kathleen Gavin, at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, says the results “are very intruiging and definitely worth more extensive study,” although she cautions that their relevance in humans will require substantial additional investigation.


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